universe

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Being Authentic… to Ourselves and Each Other

Published May 28, 2020 by Maryanne

Being Authentic: A Memoir by Morhaf Al Achkar, MD, PhD

Review by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

While many people are complaining about being cooped up during the pandemic, I’m secretly rejoicing because I’ve been doing what I didn’t have much time for before—READING! Since the mid-March lockdown, I’ve read six books, all special in their own right.

Prior to writing this review, I questioned myself… Is it weird to say I can relate to a man who was born in Syria, two years after I graduated high school? A man who became both an MD and a PhD–whereas I struggled just to get my diploma?

First, I took the safe route and wrote the blog as a regular book review. However, after a re-read, my review appeared dull and stale. This author deserves so much more. After he exposed his deep feelings for all to read, I promised myself I should do the same. I do not see that as narcissistic, but rather compassionate. In this review I want people to see me as a person who can find something in common with almost anyone—male/female, young/older, rich/middle class/poor, black/white/mixed. Because this is what the world needs right now, to focus on what we have in common, rather than what sets us apart. (And, honestly, I’ve been quiet about politics for too long, so read on!)

Leo

Author, Morhaf Al Alchar, MD, PhD, and faithful companion, Leo! 

Morhaf Al Achkar has not reached his 40th birthday, yet he ponders death.

I question: Why is he thinking about this now? Perhaps because of his struggle with both Crohn’s disease and a stage four lung cancer; perhaps because he dealt with the devastating loss of his own mother at a young age; or perhaps because we are in the midst a pandemic, all of us facing a virus that has no cure yet. And so many people are at each other’s throats, making it political.

In his memoir, Dr. Achkar strives to be authentic—his true self. And that he is. His story is direct as he gets right to the point with no apologies. And he is vulnerable. There is absolutely no pretense. You do not feel like you are reading a book written by a doctor, with both an MD and a PhD. Instead, you are chatting with a brand new friend.

Growing up in Syria, in a family of nine children, Morhaf often locked himself in a room reading books. He was labeled the “philosopher of his family” by his father. Early on, one of his major struggles was living in a culture “with hypertrophied masculinity.” Men boasting of foolish things like beatings or shootings was the norm. There were also bullies and schoolteachers who were abusive. Wise beyond his years, Morhaf made sense of it all and did not let any of this hinder his growth as a human being. As a person who was also bullied, I relate to this.

Once I began sharing my story to others, I no longer felt shame, but rather a big relief—even empowered! When I read about other people being bullied, it’s a soft spot for me. I can’t help but get a lump in my throat. Then I immediately switch my brain to the good parts of one’s life; their triumphs!

The saving grace in this picture is Morhaf’s mother, a warm, trusting woman, but one of authority and one who greatly valued education. Reading about how his mom pushed Morhaf to take the first steps on the dance floor reminded me of my grandmother.

Grandma practically raised me since my parents were divorced and neither were around much. I think about a family reunion we had when I was about 12. My sister, cousins and I danced to the hired band. When the reunion came to an end, my grandmother encouraged me to “talk to them.” I was shy, but wanted to make Grandma happy, so with my older cousin, we went up to the stage and asked the musicians for their autographs. A parent or grandparent encouraging the kids to dance or talk to someone at a party is a great move to get a kid out of their shy shell.

Another way I relate to Morhaf is not being satisfied with religion and rituals. As a Muslim he reflects on his faith after his mother passes. I was raised without religion, so I had nothing to go by except the standards Catholic holidays that Italian families practiced. When I was 24, I met an older Filipino gentleman who became my mentor. Together we studied religions and philosophies from all over the world.

Remaining open-minded until I met some Christian friends, I decided to give Christianity a chance. But then after my grandmother died, I lost faith, the same way Morhaf felt his faith was faltering after his mother died.

I stopped going to church and celebrating any holidays that had to do with Jesus. When I returned to faith, I took it all with a grain of salt, saving the positive and discarding what seemed overbearing. I now believe in Jesus, but also Buddha, God, and The Universe.

Perhaps this is something people of all faiths go through, but not many admit. So once again, as I’m reading the book, I am grateful to Morhaf for his honesty.

Amongst his great successes, he has had his shares of disappointments too. His passion in activism inspired was an option to leave his family, but after failing a commission-based job, he returned home.

Some of the best times seem to be spent in America. At first, Morhaf lived in Columbus, Ohio with his sister and continued to study. He traveled extensively throughout the USA. In addition to his studies, he had fun adventures that young people experience like dancing, hookah nights, playing cards, consuming cheap drinks, and adopting a canine companion named Leo.

Sadly, dating was an issue, especially in Indiana, where he lived and where many women were prejudiced to his color and didn’t think twice about making racist remarks. It felt terrible to read this. I am sorry that many USA women put a bad taste in one’s mouth, but I want people from other countries to know we are not all that way.

I live in NJ, a democratic state where we are open-minded to making friends of all races and colors—without judgement. I know behind my back my conservative friends and family refer to me as a “Libtard.” It’s wrong and very hurtful.

As a spiritual person, I refuse to retaliate with words and placing derogatory memes on Facebook. Instead I pray for them. And I pray for our president, who I do not care for.

During the month Donald Trump was elected president, Dr. Morhaf was diagnosed with cancer. As a Syrian immigrant he felt affected by the ban on Muslims, fearing he would not be able to say goodbye to his family. He wrote a letter to speak of his struggles. It was published in a Huffington Post blog, entitled “Dear Mr. Trump, You Are Cancer and I Only Live If You Shrink!” The letter explained what it was like to live with what he had then perceived as a terminal illness and as a Syrian immigrant affected by the ban on Muslims. After writing the letter, he felt empowered and liberated him to engage with the Syrian struggle.

I suppose many have friends who have immigrated to the United States and have been affected by Trump’s stance. It is absolutely heartbreaking seeing families being broken up. I know one personally, and will leave it at that to protect their privacy.

Aside from the prejudice Morhaf experienced from American women, he has decided to stay single because he doesn’t want to be a burden to someone should his health fail. I seriously hope he changes his mind because true love is mending.

I’ve shared the story many times and am happy to share it again. When I first began dating my husband I was going to many doctors because I never felt right. A few doctors feared I had cancer. After many ultra-sounds, CAT scans, and countless opinions nothing was found. Seven months after dating my husband, I had one final test that showed I was cancer-free and perfectly healthy! A week later I felt better than I did my entire life! Having a supportive loving person by my side healed me. I believe that!

So, you can see why I’ve enjoyed “Being Authentic” so much. There’s enough to relate to, but also much to learn. And, that, is what a good book should be!

Morhaf’s reflections on life in his later years, while he is now, fortunately, in stable health, we see that he is a true humanitarian and invites others to be as authentic as he is. This is what I wanted from my book, “I Don’t Want to Be Like You.” I want others to share their stories without feeling disgrace. The troubled times are what got you to where you are today. Always remember that.

When we look deep inside ourselves, and share our notions in writing, the reader gets a peek at our true soul. A reader may not “get it” entirely, but the more open an author is, the more we can learn about each other; and love each other. After all, deep down we are more alike than different. This is a book everyone can learn from. And Morhaf will be remembered for writing it.

To purchase “Being Authentic” (and have a sneak peek inside the book) please click on this link: Being Authentic

Follow Morhaf Al Alchar on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/morhafalachkar

95849294_2817039011678255_9072810759997620224_oBeing Authentic book cover

 

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing. She is also available for book signings and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Be-Extra-Ordinary-Ways-Become/dp/1733546227

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

 

The Universe Speaks

Published May 5, 2020 by Maryanne

beyond-the-blue-horizon-my-photoTwilight photo by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

If you don’t believe in miracles, stop reading. If you do, carry on…

You always hear tales about rock stars or celebrities predicting their fame. But common people don’t share enough of their every day miracles–that they manifested by the positives that came directly from their own mouth.

One of the most beautiful examples, in my life, was back in late 2005. A relationship ended with yet another loser (though to be fair, I did have some cool boyfriends when I was single, some I am still friends with). After that break-up, my mother said to me, “You should be like me, just be alone.”

Easy for her to say, she was 62, but I was only 42 and did not want to spend the rest of my life alone. I simply blurted, “No, there is someone out there for me!”

Two months later I met the man who ended up being my husband, the love of my life, my rock, and loving cat daddy!

That was one of the bigger miracles and I feel another big one is about to manifest.

Everyone who is artistic and in the public eye, knows how hard it is to elevate your career from point A to point B. The process isn’t an overnight success, but moves so slowly it can feel like you’re going backward instead of going forward. But if you pay attention to the signs, you can see you ARE going forward, especially when you see things being left behind.

For example, when I first started as a public speaker, back in 2014, it was in assisted living facilities. I lectured seniors on health and history; and eventually had a “Learn & Listen” series where I’d speak about the life of a famous entertainer, followed by live music! Speaking at the assisted livings elevated to libraries. This went on for another six years.

Over the years I’ve learned that when you book something in the winter, you have to have a rain/snow date. But COVID19 reschedules don’t cut it because no one knows what the future brings. But let’s back up a bit …

As much as I loved doing gigs at the libraries, and all the beautiful memories I’ve had, once my library gigs canceled, one by one, due to COVID19, I took it as a blessing in disguise.

You see, I’ve become such a good speaker, it’s only natural that I wanted to elevate to the next step. I’ve outgrown libraries and began dreaming of the day when I’d no longer be doing the library gigs. In fact, while booking one of my gigs (which is hard work, but I never found someone I could connect with to do it for me), I blurted out to a librarian, “I won’t be doing this much longer. I’m going to be moving on to schools and universities.”

Sure enough, a week ago I had a phone meeting with a university. I’m going to be conducting lectures/classes/workshops online! This may start as soon as June! It’s a magical manifestation that I made happen.

In this day and age, with so many believing in The Secret, Law of Attraction, positive thinking, elevating yourself, and going after the gold, this story is not as “out there” as someone many have believed in the 1980s. (Though I must say, some are still stuck there!)

If something comes out of your mouth that seems a bit strange, or unlike you, it just may be from the universe, giving you the nudge you need!

Has this ever happened to you? Share your stories!

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing. She is also available for book signings and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Be-Extra-Ordinary-Ways-Become/dp/1733546227

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

“The Gypsy Smiled” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Gypsy-Smiled-Maryanne-Christiano-Mistretta-ebook/dp/B074VC7MT9

My Latest Book in Barnes & Noble!

Published January 12, 2020 by Maryanne

DSCF4690

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta, author of

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero”

Being a 5x author, I’m no stranger to seeing my books on Barnes & Noble online, but this is the first time I ever saw one of my books in a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Friends have purchased my books from Barnes & Noble bookstores and showed me photos of the books in the stores. But it’s definitely a first for me, and it was a thrill!

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing. She is also available for book signings and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Be-Extra-Ordinary-Ways-Become/dp/1733546227

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

“The Gypsy Smiled” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Gypsy-Smiled-Maryanne-Christiano-Mistretta-ebook/dp/B074VC7MT9

Poetry Reading at Neighborhood House Association, Plainfield, NJ

Published November 24, 2019 by Maryanne

DSCF4439

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta (left), with coordinator/host, Carolyn M. Gourdine

November 24, 2019, Carolyn M. Gourdine hosted an amazing event I was so proud to be a part of the Leading By Mission Pop-Up Shop, and read my poetry along with other poets, comedians, musicians, and deejays.

I read two poems and have them uploaded on You Tube, on my Be YOUnique station. Note, I don’t have children, so not sure how “family friendly” they are since I casually mention “sex” and a “no bra day.” So for 18+ only!

“All About Eve” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyLorsfQig4

“Never a Dull Day” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyiNL6ChEEI&t=1s

Both videos were made by Jayne DiGregorio (https://www.jaynedigregorio.com/)

Follow Leading by Mission here: https://www.facebook.com/leadingbymission/

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing. She is also available for book signings and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Be-Extra-Ordinary-Ways-Become/dp/1733546227

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

 

World Kindness Day

Published November 13, 2019 by Maryanne

Be Extra-Ordinary

#worldkindnessday

Happy World Kindness Day! In my new book, there’s an entire chapter dedicated to kindness. “Be Kind” begins on page 51!

Order HERE: https://www.amazon.com/Be-Extra-Ordinary-Ways-Become/dp/1733546227

Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero

Published October 17, 2019 by Maryanne

Be Extra-Ordinary.png

I am thrilled to announce that my fifth book, published by KiCam is now available!

For your copy, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Be-Extra-Ordinary-Ways-Become/dp/1733546227

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing, and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Be-Extra-Ordinary-Ways-Become/dp/1733546227

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

And check out her anti-bullying You Tube channel, Be YOUniquehttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLq6J9MSvcjd-haQ30ycLWA?view_as=subscriber

Anti-Bullying Talk and Book Signing

Published October 5, 2019 by Maryanne

Photo by Jayne.JPGMaryanne Christiano-Mistretta (photo by Jayne DiGregorio)

This afternoon I was honored to do a book talk and book signing at The Caldwell Library, Caldwell, New Jersey. The event was sponsored by The Caldwell Library and The Women’s Club of Caldwell. NJ Hills Media Group was also there.

My book, “I Don’t Want to Be Like You” shares my experiences growing up in the 1970s and being bullied relentlessly.

The moral of the story is that it’s bullies who should be shamed, not the victim! According to psychology, it’s never the victims fault, but the bully’s fault.

How did my experiences end? When I fought back! My sweetest revenge is having an amazing life and a beautiful marriage. But I do forgive the bullies. My wish for them is that they have changed for the better and if they have children they are raising them right; that they have learned from their mistakes.

By sharing our experiences and being vulnerable, we take the “shame” out of bullying. The more we speak out against it, the more we evolve and have something done about it! I’m in my mid-50s, and God willing I’ll have another good 40 years left on this planet. I’d like to see us evolve as a human race to the point where bullying no longer exists.

Let’s make bullying extinct!

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing, and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: Ten Ways to Become Your Own Hero” will be available October 2019. To pre-order, go here: https://kicamprojects.com/shop/be-extraordinary/

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

And check out her anti-bullying You Tube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLq6J9MSvcjd-haQ30ycLWA?view_as=subscriber

 

Turning My Back on Age 55

Published August 18, 2019 by Maryanne

IMG_8479Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Today is my last day of age 55.

It’s been an incredible year. My fourth book was published and I wrote a fifth (which will be published later this year). I’ve helped two other people write their books, while I tried to help even more who have given up on the process. Yet I never give up.

It’s been another year of growth, spiritually and creatively. I joined Toastmasters to become a better speaker. I not only won a spot to present a workshop, “Be Your Own Hero,” but I’ve won “Best Speaker,” “Best Evaluator,” and “Best Table Topics.” I’ve continued to present speaking engagements in libraries.

I also started an anti-bullying You Tube channel. And blogging, lots of it for major companies and small businesses.

I’ve loved hard; and I’ve lost hard. Last summer my husband and I took in a beautiful feral cat, Bennie, who chose us to live with during the final months of his short three years. We gave him a happy last few months, then he was put down due to brain cancer. We’ve also lost some friends who died way too young. As well as some high profiles like Shakti Gawain, who has been inspiring me since I found her book in the late 1980s, “Creative Visualization.”

As always, it’s been a year of much fun. Friends, concerts, trips, and lots of laughter. And yet, another cat we adopted back in April–Sammy, with the full name, Samuel Keane Clemens.

I end the year in good health, for which I never take for granted. Young people still tell me, “You look so young” when I share my real age, for which I am always proud of. Many do not make it to 55, so I am so grateful for each day on this planet, and thank the energy we call God or the Universe.

It’s a great life and I’ve manifested it; being in harmony with the universe. Being myself. Being YOUnique. God bless everyone who is a part of my own little world.

Bring on year number 56! I am ready!

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing, and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: Ten Ways to Become Your Own Hero” will be available October 2019. To pre-order, go here: https://kicamprojects.com/shop/be-extraordinary/

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

Best Lesson of 2012

Published December 18, 2012 by Maryanne

MARYANNE -- Early 30sMe, in my 30s

“It’s better to walk a lonely path than be in the company of a fool.” — Buddha

In the past, I’ve been such a sucker when it comes to friendships. I’ve  hung on to debilitating friendships. I’ve been known to be too nice, give in too much and be too forgiving. I’ve let people who have hurt me in the past back into my life, only to wind up getting hurt over and over again.

But 2012, I’ve learned to  put a stop to all that.

My days are so much happier because I’ve been practicing (and succeeding) a very important lesson:

WHEN TO LET GO!

To me, these are the top three reasons to let go of a friendship:

1. When it’s exhausting. When friendships are too trying because a certain friend is too selfish or too self-centered or jealous; when you are getting tight pains in the chest just thinking of the drama a certain person causes in your life, it’s time to let go. When you are no longer excited about seeing that person and more worried about how your health will fare because he/she is too exhausting.

REMEMBER — YOUR HEALTH SHOULD COME FIRST!

2. When a person resorts to insults or digs. When a friend uses put downs during a disagreement (or worse, just in general!) Friends should never hurt each other verbally. You can agree to disagree, or avoid topics you disagree on, or just let something go. There is no reason to resort to put downs or name calling. We are not children and if you can’t have an adult friendship, it’s not worth it.

It also sucks when a person has to throw in a wise crack or dig to make him or herself feel better. I’ve felt myself falling prey to their jerkiness only to try even harder to get this person to like me more. This is not a healthy friendship and needs to be let go of. It’s devastating to feel you have to try to win someone’s approval.

A real friend will accept you as you are and be supportive of who you are, not belittle you!

YOU ARE SPECIAL — DON’T LET ANYONE TAKE THAT FROM YOU!

3. When someone isn’t there for you. When one person is always calling the other one it really sucks. Friendships are give and take. If you feel like you are doing all the calling, all the emailing  and always making suggestions to get together, just let it go, this person is obviously not that into you. Move on to someone better, who can share your successes and be there if you need a shoulder to cry on! A former friend of mine always seemed to disappear whenever something really good was happening in my life because she was jealous of me. My husband picked up on this, but I gave her chance after chance after chance. But mind you, if someone is jealous, unless she/he gets counseling, there will never be a true friendship. Jealousy is an ugly disease and a jealous person does not make for a good friend.

All this said, my life is now filled with amazing people — 2012 was the BEST year for friendships!

Whenever you are brave enough to let go of something that is not a positive in your life, the universe opens up so many doors for either new good things, or more good from the old!

Since I dropped a few negative people from my life (some in horrible, ugly ways because I just could not stand it anymore and not only had to close the door, but SLAM it shut; and others in a more subtle drifting apart kinda way — mainly because I feared the psycho drama that would occur if I confronted a certain person).

It’s such a relief to let go. There is no need for friendships that are ego-driven or happening because a certain person calls you only when he or she is lonely and has nothing better to do. Or if a person makes it known that he or she is so BUSY and you are resorted to feeling like an obligation!

There may be another reason to let go that isn’t so drastic. Perhaps you and a friend are just going in different directions for a brief period. If there is no exchange of bad words and if you really like a person and know that that person really likes you too, the separation period may be brief and he or she will return to your life when the time is right. In these situations it’s not really letting go, but perhaps merely going with the flow, like the tide of the ocean. And that is a good thing!

The final result of letting go is a beautiful inner peace,

Knowing that ALL the people who remain in your life really care about you and love you.

Thank you to God and the Universe for giving me the tools to make the right decisions when it comes to friendships. And thank you for bringing all these amazing people into my life that I can truly call friends!

Thank you to all my friends for loving me and caring about me!

Know how very important and precious you are to me!

I love you!